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From Spain’s Moors to Spain’s Colonies: Chateaubriand’s Mapping of Liberty and Equality in Les Aventures du dernier Abencérage
Where does Spain fit on the post-revolutionary map? Contemporary Spain remains marginalized at the periphery of European civilization, as if deemed not yet ready, like its colonies, to put Enlightenment ideals into practice. Chateaubriand perpetuates this remoteness of the Iberian Peninsula by setting an interracial, interfaith romance, Les Aventures du dernier Abencérage, in the distant past of Moorish Spain, when, in fact, interracial romances prompted much contemporary debate in the American colonies. This article analyzes the contrast between an idealized vision of aristocratic liberty and equality set in 1526 and the pragmatic politics of liberal imperialism when it came to Spain’s future and the fate of its Spanish colonies. The first part interprets the story against the backdrop of its writing in 1810 shortly after Napoleon’s invasion of Spain. The second part connects the novella’s 1826 publication with Chateaubriand’s political role when, named Minister of Foreign Affairs, he instigated a military intervention in Spain in 1823.